Migration And Reform

Well today is obviously immigration day, as thousands of Latinos take to the streets in the United States to demand some kind of ‘regularisation’. I have been posting on Demography Matters about the changing pattern of Latino migration in the US, and on the not entirely unrelated topic of whether it is the arrival of the Latinos or the presence of religious belief which is primarily responsible for the fact that US fertility is still hovering round the replacement mark (especially the comments, and here, and here and here).

But this post is not about migration in the United States. Rather it is about migration inside the frontiers of the EU itself. As populations age, and our economies come under increasing strain, some societies will prove more able to reform than others. Now one conjecture I have been making is that in this process some societies will attract population (and get that famous win-win dynamic going) while others will lose even that which they have (sounds a bit like the biblical parable now doesn’t it). Actually economists have terms for all this. You might say that the ones who attract are experiencing an increasing returns process, while those who lose are suffering from negative feedback.

Claus has already touched on how Denmark is suffering from a lack of immigration (and me here), in the sense that more people are now leaving than are arriving, but perhaps more importantly for the future of the entire EU, Germany is very near to becoming a net exporter of people (and here).

Pperhaps a bit more spice was added to this already simmering cooking-pot last week by a sudden, and rather unexpected, bout of finger pointing from Peer Steinbrück, Germany’s finance minister, in the general direction of Vienna. Now according to Steinbrück, Vienna’s recent decision to cut corporate tax rates from 34 per cent to 25 per cent has led to an increasing number of German companies investing across the border in Austria. In other words, not only are people leaving, companies are now also leaving, and to less than anticipated destinations, and of course, on the backs of the companies will go even more people. Are we really so sure that that recently heralded sustainable recovery is as sustainable as some are suggesting? Morgan Stanley’s Eric Chaney understandably still has his doubts.

The real issue is this: as the FT says “Mr Steinbrück has limited room for manoeuvre in the tax field because of Germany’s high budget deficit”. All these issues interlock. So, on a day when Jaques Chirac seems to have taken a step backwards in the French reform process, it might be just worth asking ourselves whether, at the end of the day, there won’t be a price to pay for all this ‘no rush now is there’ style delay.